Helpful Tips and Reminders

After completing two riddles you now have a sense of what the process of translation entails. On this page we will explore some general patterns and commonly used grammatical devices in order to increase your knowledge of the Old English language. These hints and suggestions will prove useful as you continue to improve your skills.

On this Page:

Commonly Used Prepositions Commonly Used Words with Negative Connotation
Commonly Used Conjunctions Pronouns Not Found in the Basic Paradigms  

Commonly Used Adverbs

Commonly Used Affixes

 

Commonly Used Prepositions [29]

            The following is a list of prepositions that are used with frequency in Old English. Notice that many of them look and sound similar to their Modern English counterparts.

fter: after, along ofer: over, above
r: before, previously on: on, into, in
t: at, by, from o: until, up to, as far as
be: about, concerning : to, into, for, as a [30]
beforan: before urh: through, throughout, by means of
betweox: between, among under: under, beneath
fram: from, by wi: with, against, from
in: in, into ymb: about, concerning
mid: with, among  

Commonly Used Conjunctions

ac: but, however, and, moreover nefne: except, but
and/ond: and : now, now that
ge: and [31] nyme: unless, except
hwnne: until the time when oe: or
hwđer: whether r: there, where
hwere: however, nevertheless, but, yet t: that, so that
hwer e: or onne:than, when, whenever
 
Commonly Used Adverbs
ēac: also, and swelċe: likewise
eft: again, afterwards, back swīđe: very, exceedingly
forhwega: somewhere tōgdere: together
gehwr: everywhere ā: then, when
hūru: however, indeed anon: thence
hwr: where s: afterwards, therefore [32]
lange: long, for a long time ēah: though, yet, however
ls: less ēah hwre: nevertheless, moreover
nēah: near on: than
oft: often onne: then
samod: too, at the same time us: thus, in this way
simle: always ūpp: up
sidđan: afterwards, later ūt: out
sōna: immediately wel: well
swā: so, thus wīde: far, far and wide
Commonly Used Words with Negative Connotation
: no, by no means, never nāer: neither
nfre: never : not, nor
nān: none, not one nealles/nalles/nāteshwōn: not at all
nānwuht/nāwiht: nothing niċ: no, not

 

Pronouns Not Found in the Basic Paradigms

ghwylċ: each (one) ilca: same
gđer: each, both manig: many
: each, every ōđer: other, another
fela: many sīn: his, her, its
gehwā: each, everyone sum: some, a certain
hwthwugu: something hwelċ: which, what, what kind of

 

Commonly Used Affixes

The addition of particular letters to the beginning and end of words is extremely important to our understanding of both Modern and Old English grammar. These additions are known as prefixes and suffixes; they alter and deepen the meaning of the words they are attached to. Although some affixes do not carry any particular meaning or function it is still important for you to familiarize yourself with them. The prefixes in particular are important to learn, as you do not want to look up a prefix in the glossary thinking it is a part of the actual root word. You need to be able to distinguish between affixes and infinitives. The following list is not extensive as it is solely intended to be an introductory aid.

Prefixes

ā: sometimes carries the connotation that the word is away (i.e. āfysan, which means to drive forth). Other times this prefix has no effect on the meaning of the word.
g:
generalizes adverbs and pronouns (i.e. ghwā would translate everyone)
for: acts as an intensifier (i.e. forheard, which translates very hard)
ge: in nouns carries the sense of being together (i.e. gefēra, which means companion). In verbs it has a perfective connotation, meaning that the verb is complete in its action. The ge- prefix is thus frequently used in past participles.
tō:: sometimes has the same meaning as the preposition tō (i.e. weard, which translates towards). In verbs, however, it often means the opposite, to separate (i.e. faran, which means to disperse or go apart)
un:

sometimes suggests a sense of negativity (i.e. unfri, which translates literally un-peace and conveys the sense of war)

ymb: adds the sense of being around (i.e. ymbldan, which means to lead around)

Noun Suffixes

a/o: forms masculine nouns such as herga (plundering) and fisco (fishing)
end: equivalent to the Modern English suffix er. (i.e. wīgend, which translates warrior or fighter)
hād: equals Modern English hood; introduces masculine nouns (i.e. cildhād, which means childhood)
rden: forms feminine abstract nouns such as hierdrden (guardianship)
(o)/(u): forms feminine abstract nouns such as ierm(u) (misery/poverty)
ung/ing: found in feminine abstract nouns formed from verbs (i.e. bodung, which translates preaching and also rding which means reading)

Adjective Suffixes

en: found in adjectives with an i-mutated vowel in the stem of the word (i.e. gylden)
ig: equivalent to Modern English's -y suffix. (i.e. hālig, which translates holy)
lic: equivalent to our -ly ending (i.e. hefonlic, which literally translates heaven-like and conveys a sense of being heavenly).

Adverb Suffixes

e/lice/unga: all equivalent to the Modern suffix -ly (i.e. hrae, which means quickly or eallunga, which translates entirely)
an: usually means from (i.e. noran translates to from the north)
or/ost: adjectives are usually compared by adding these endings and dropping the -e, if necessary (i.e. oft, which translates often, becomes oftor or oftost, while swīe, which means greatly, becomes swīor or swīost)

Verb Suffixes

an: the most common infinitive ending for class one verbs, both strong and weak (i.e. āwrītan, which means to write)
en: the ending of past participles of strong verbs (i.e. ofslagen, which translates to slay or destroy)
ian: the infinitive ending of class two weak verbs (i.e. ferian, which means to carry)
rian: indication of a class one weak verb (i.e. nerian, which translates to save)

 

         In order to ease the process of your translations I have also created a Useful Endings Reference Guide which includes a list of some additional suffixes and inflections that act as grammatical cues. This list is not comprehensive and should simply serve as quick reference. Rather than including the list here, I have placed it in part four of the index where it will be easily accessible no matter what activity you are working on. This guide includes some of the most commonly used endings and thus some information from this page has been repeated.

 

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[29] Mitchell and Robinson, 116-117. Affixes from pages 58-59.

[30] This word can also function as an adverb, meaning too.

[31] Note the different meaning and use of the conjunction ge (and) versus the prefix ge (in nouns carries the sense of being together).

[32] Notice how the adverb æs means afterwards or therefore, while the pronoun æs translates that, the, he, she, it, who or which.